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Got Bridge? Got Opera House? Got Beach? All this and more in Sydney! Sydney is the biggest city in the state of New South Wales (NSW) in Australia, with more than 800 CouchSurfers! It has beaches, shopping, pubs and clubs, interesting tourist attractions, some fabulous festivals and more!
If you want information about stuff to do
... in Sydney
- The Sydney Guide - a fantastic listing of HEAPS of things to do and see!
- Guide to Gay Sydney - also has listings for other states too!
- What's On - the official City of Sydney what's on guide!
- The Blue Mountains
- Map of Sydney! from Google maps.
Don't want to get stuck in Sydney? See the Australia cs wiki to get more information on the state of New South Wales (of which Sydney is the capital city) and more!
To keep your finger on the pulse check out the Sydney group or the Australia group. We also have many events happening; see the Sydney Calendar and don't forget the CS Aussie Newsletter which is monthly and keeps you up-to-date with what has been happening in your area, as well as forthcoming CS activities.
Culture and being a good guest
See the general guide on How to be a good guest and be aware that Sydney is a very multicultural society so there are no hard and fast rules as to what you should do, it's best to follow the lead of your host or just ask!
In general Australia is quite laid back country, in fact we are known to 'take the piss' or make fun of things which can include ourselves, our country, you, our experiences, it's our nature and is not intended to offend! So clarify if they are joking before taking offence!
When travelling be aware the spiritual values of Aboriginal Australians is based upon reverence for the land, Aboriginal people are a part of the land, not owners of the land. If you are in an area of spiritual significance just remember to show respect to the original inhabitants, if you disrespect a site of cultural significance you are disrespecting the Aboriginal inhabitants.
Scams and safety
Sydney is generally a very safe place, but here are some hints and tips about recent scams!
- If you are meeting at Central station be careful - there are multiple entrances and exits, and there are often a group of drunks who can be quite aggressive at the corner of Eddy Avenue and Elizabeth Street.
- The transport scam is a popular one, someone comes up and asks you for a dollar for the bus or train. They can be dressed very nicely in a suit or they can be dressed casually. Once you give them your money, they'll walk away like they are going somewhere, wait until you are gone and then go back and beg some more. If you feel guilty about saying 'no' just watch these scammers from a distance asking other people for money, walking off and then returning to the same place! SCAM!
- It is popular around the city to sit with a cardboard sign, looking dejected with very little money in the tray and avoiding eye-contact. It is difficult to tell who is genuine and who is fake, the decision is up to you.
If you are not sure who is a scammer but want to help people you can:
- Volunteer with Sydney's homeless! See volunteering links in the 'Working in Sydney' section.
- Buy The Big Issue ($4), you will be helping to support the vendor who you bought the magazine off. The Big Issue is sold by homeless people or those experiencing long term unemployment, you are helping to get someone's life back on track!
Working and Studying in Sydney
Extensive information can now be found on the Australia cs wiki, such as how to getting money back when you leave, visa information, useful employment links and more!
Studying in Sydney
- University of Western Sydney
- The University of New South Wales
- The University of Sydney
- Macquarie University
- University of Technology, Sydney
- TAFE (for trades, short courses)
- VolunteeringNSW - the official site of Volunteering NSW - a big volunteering network.
- Conservation Volunteers - do something for the environment
- Australian Red Cross
- Engineers Without Borders, the Australian Branch. They also do international work.
- The Salvation Army - they do a lot, see their website
- Just Enough Faith - working with the homeless in Sydney
Long term accommodation
When considering long term accommodation in Sydney some ideas of where to look are written below. It is important to ALWAYS look around so you get an idea of the market price when renting. Also it helps to be aware of your rights! Find out your rights from the Office of Fair Trading.
There are many ways to find long-term accomodation, you could post a notice under the relevant Sydney hosts subgroup (Please DO NOT post in the Sydney group) or check out gumtree.com.au which has sections for long term and short term accommodation or look at notice boards around local universities. Newspapers are a great resource as well, check out the local paper which is usually delivered for free and most Sydney newspapers have a section advertising 'for rent'.
One of the most popular way to live in Sydney is share accommodation. It's a great way to lower rental costs and is very popular among young people. The best places to look for share ads are online share accommodation websites e.g.:
- Share Accommodation Sydney - EasyRoommate.com, the biggest flatmate site in Australia, might require a paid subscription to see all contact details
- Flatmates.com.au - free and quite popular
- Flatmate.com - free and with more 14 years in the market.
Sydney Ferries, Sydney Busses and City Rail are all owned and run by the state. This means you can get combination deals for all three modes of transport. You should be aware that student discounts on state transport are only given for New South Wales students that have a concession sticker on their student pass.
Peak times are weekdays around 8am-9.30am and 4.30pm-6.00pm when people are trying to get to and from work.
- The Transport Info Line has information on train, bus and ferry timetables around Sydney. You can also call 131500.
- Calculate your bus, train or ferry fare - use the Transport Infoline!
- Search lots and lots of Rail and Ferry maps!
- Check Sydney bus routes on PDF based bus maps
- How to get home late at night without paying a taxi with NightRide buses
- Going somewhere? See whereis or google maps to plan your trip, search maps and more!
- Need some information on Sydney tolls if you are driving? Or why not check out LIVE! Traffic! Exciting!
- Do you want to hire a car? You can see the Yellow Pages and search for hire companies OR if you want to buy a car check out the Trading Post Online
- Maybe you need a taxi?
You can check out the relevant section on the Australia cs wiki otherwise before we embark on the how to do Sydney in a car, we first have to figure out how you will get a car! You can choose to hire a car, search the Yellow Pages for car hire companies. Or if you want to buy a car check out the Trading Post. There are many other ways to buy a car in Sydney, such as searching the local newspapers when you arrive.
The first thing to do when buying a car is to do a REVS check, if you buy a car with money still owing on it, then you become responsible for that debt! A REVS check will tell you if a car you are considering buying carries debt!
If you buy a car, the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) have useful information about how to transfer the registration into your name. Registering a new car or a car that has not been registered for a while is a pain, registration is about $1000 to put the price into perspective.
At this point you should be thinking about the cost of petrol, well it varies you should be aware of the Sydney petrol cycle, the price of petrol always jumps significantly on a Wednesday afternoon, funnily enough this is pay day for most people. The best time to buy petrol is Tuesday or early Wednesday morning. A useful website for information on petrol prices is Motormouth.
Parking is difficult in the Sydney CBD and around the beaches. There are parking stations in the city, but to be considered truly a god among men (and women) you want free parking. Free parking is the ultimate goal, if you get good, free parking, you should take a photo of it and brag about your ultimate parking spot for at least a week. If you are couchsurfing, you should inquire about parking availability if you are not an awesome parallel parker.
Finally a few bits and pieces to be aware of:
- Speed cameras in Sydney (and New South Wales) have signs before them to warn you that there is a speed camera ahead. This is not so in other states, we just have a great deal!
- If someone 'flashes' their lights at you, it means slow down, there is either an accident ahead or cops, it could also mean you have not turned your lights on at night.
- If you hit a native animal, what do you do? WIRES have a useful website about animal first aid. If you have killed the animal, and if it is safe to do so, drag the animal off the road. You should then check if it has any babies and if it does call WIRES 1800 641 188 (a free call). WIRES is a New South Wales only organisation.
Motorcycling (and "scootering") is very popular throughout all of Australia, and increasingly so in Sydney due to the traffic congestion.
Licence: Some states of Australia permit riding a 50cc scooter on a car licence, but NSW is NOT one of them. You must have a motorcycle licence to ride any form of scooter or motorcycle. If you have held your motorcycle licence for under twelve months you may be restricted to riding a motorcycle of less than 250cc capacity. Check with the RTA to determine your circumstances.
Buying/renting a motorcycle: Two useful resources for buying a used motorcycle are the Trading Post and Bike Sales. For rentals Bikescape is a reputable company, as is Motorbike Hire.com.au. Expect to be required to pay a substantial deposit to hire a motorcycle, although this will be refunded on return of the machine. Bikescape also offer a "guaranteed buyback" sale plan.
Equipment: A motorcycle helmet is required at all times for anyone on a motorcycle, including pillion passengers. Gloves and boots are highly recommended, but not mandatory. Motorcycle Accessory Supermarket has a wide selection and is located in the CBD at 36 Wentworth St.
Road and parking rules: Road rules for motorcycles are often different by state. Here are the NSW rules.
- Motorcycles can use all transit lanes and bus lanes in NSW (bus lanes are marked by having an orange surface). The only time a motorcycle may not use a lane is when it is marked "Bus Only".
- "Lane splitting" (riding between adjacent moving cars) is illegal in all of Australia, including NSW.
- "Lane filtering" (riding between stopped cars at a traffic light in order to get to the front) is not strictly legal, but not strictly illegal either. (A proposal to make it legal is currently being examined by the government). As long as you filter carefully and at a speed no more than a walking pace you are very unlikely to be ticketed for it.
- Parking - Sydney has a number of dedicated motorcycle parking areas. Unlike Victoria it is illegal to park on a footpath in NSW and you will get fined for it. You can, however, park for free in any area where cars are expected to buy a paper ticket. (Strictly speaking you ARE required to pay for parking here, however you will never receive a parking violation because a motorcyclist can legally claim that their ticket simply "blew away".)
In Sydney the transport system works on a few different ticketing systems, depending on what you are doing will depend on what is the cheapest option for you!
Bus drivers like you to have change, paying with a $20 or $50 note is annoying, it helps to have change or a $5 note.
You can visit the Transport Infoline website, there are other options than those listed here, but in my opinion those other deals are too expensive!
Around Sydney city
ATTENTION: Sydney CBD (downtown) turned PREPAY only (starting May/June 2009)! This means you can NOT buy your ticket on the bus inside the city, but rather buy it in advance at the many agents (like convenience stores, newspaper stands etc). Check for details here!
If you are only going to be a day or so in Sydney, then you are best to pay as you go. You cannot buy a return ticket on a Sydney bus, you just buy a single ticket to your destination and another one on the way home.
The bus fare is determined by the number of sections you travel. The bus trip is cut up into sections; 1-2 sections will be cheaper than traveling 3-5 sections. You don't need to figure this out, you just tell the bus driver where you are going and they calculate the fare.
Travel Tens are passes that give you 10 trips. There are machines on the buses that you dip the passes into and it will record on your pass how many trips you've had.
There are different coloured Travel Tens, these colours do not correspond to the colours of the weekly travel passes! A blue Travel Ten does NOT let you travel to the same places a blue Travel Weekly. Confusing I know!
The two that are most likely of interest are the blue Travel Ten or the brown Travel Ten.
- Blue Travel Ten allows you to travel up to 2 sections, which is a very short trip. However you can dip the blue Travel Ten into the machine twice for longer trips.
- Brown Travel Ten allows you to travel up to 5 sections. It is good enough for getting around most places.
If you are unsure which pass to buy, buy a Blue Travel Ten, you can always dip it twice into the machine if you are going longer distances, simply ask the bus driver how many times you have to dip the ticket into the machine.
Travel Tens are useful if you are visiting Sydney for a few days and then coming back later, because the Travel Tens do not expire.
You can buy Travel Ten passes from newsagents and other authorised ticket sellers. You cannot buy them from bus drivers.
A Travel Weekly (or Travel Pass) is a good idea if you are staying for 6 or 7 days and planing to use public transport everyday. There are three coloured travel weeklies, a blue, a brown and a purple. For most people a travel weekly 'blue' is the best value, it covers the inner city. They also cover some ferry trips as well! The travel weekly, lasts for seven days, starting from the day you dip it into the machine. You must dip the travel weekly into the machine every time you get on the bus.
Here is a map (PDF) of the areas covered by the different coloured travel passes.
Travel passes are not bought from the bus drivers, they are bought from authorised agents, usually newsagents.
Getting out of the city
You can take tour buses to places like the Hunter Valley or the Blue Mountains. There are many bus companies around Central Train station, go check them out as many tours depart from Central station. Talk to a local travel agent (always compare prices though!) or check out the Yellow Pages - searching 'Bus and coach services' in the 'Sydney CBD' is a good start!
Sydney Airport is the only international airport in New South Wales. It is located quite close to the city, you can catch a train via Airport Link into the city, but you should be aware, while this is convenient, it is very overpriced! If you are an international visitor, the closest train station is 'International Airport'. If you are arriving on a domestic flight the closest train station is 'Domestic Airport'. To catch the train you want the Airport and East Hills train line.
Did you know you can catch a bus from Sydney airport? It's a lot cheaper than the train, see the Transport Infoline to search your public transport options. Alternatively, search the Yellow Pages for Airport shuttles - searching 'Bus and coach services' as well as 'Airport shuttles' in the 'Sydney CBD' is a good start!
You can visit the Sydney Airport website, here you will find information on international and domestic arrivals, flight information, security procedures and more!
Finally you should know Australian Customs places restrictions on plant and animal goods entering and leaving Australia. You can find a useful list here of things you should be aware of. Australia is an island, it has a fragile ecosystem and needs to be protected, we do not need more rabbits, cane toads, cane beetles and so on! Please leave your native plants and animals at home!
Tip! Sydney (Kingsford Smith) International Airport has three free internet terminals on the way to gates 24-28 and several more in the airside shopping area on the way to gates 50-63 (just by the open space looking down to the transit screening area) - perfect for last-minute updates to hosts if you have some minutes to spare and the machines are available.
Tip! Our cheap domestic carriers are listed on the Australia cs wiki!
To and from the airport
By car Domestic pick-ups, domestic drop-offs and international drop-offs at the airport via car are easy, they are well sign-posted as well. There are 5 or 10 minute parking bays where you can drop people off, get the luggage out of the car and so on. In the case of domestic pick-ups get your guest to specify if you are picking them up from Terminal 2 (T2) or Terminal 3 (T3).
International pick-ups are more tricky, as the airport tries to funnel everyone into extortionate parking! If you are picking someone up, it is best to go in as a two-man (or woman) team. One person stays in the car and does loops of the airport or parks if they are lucky (note: unless you pay for it, parking is not for you! Just be prepared to move along, just don't wait in a taxi bay, bus zones or the limousine parking, use common sense!). While one drives the other person should go in and wait at the arrivals gate.
For the international airport, follow the signs to arrivals and you will be funneled into a car park, just before the car park on the left is another road, go down there and you'll end up doing a loop around the car park and you can do a quick drop-off and pick up. Prepare yourself by searching Google maps. To pick one person up from here who is unfamiliar with the place is not a great idea as people simply spew out of the airport in all directions.
If this is too complicated, just wear the cost of parking and wait at the gate for the person you are picking up to arrive.
By Train - The Airport Link Using the Airport Link is a very convenient way to get to and from the airport if you are trying to get to or from the international and domestic terminals. The stations (Green Square, Mascot, Domestic Airport and International Airport) are managed by a private company, and therefore catching a train to and from the airport is more expensive than the state run train stations.
You should avoid going from the city into the airport during the afternoon from 4pm-6pm as this is peak time. If you have no choice you can avoid pushing and shoving your way onto the train by getting on the 'Macarthur via Airport and East Hills' train line at Town Hall. Town Hall is where this service starts. See the train timetable for the airport service.
If you are arriving or leaving from a train station that is not on the City Circle, you will need to change at Central Station.
Peak times are from 8am-9am traveling into the city and from 4pm-6pm traveling out of the city. Any inner city trains - City Circle (Central Station, Circular Quay, Martin Place, Museum, St James, Town Hall and Wynyard) - will be a complete nightmare to travel on. The stations on the other side of the Harbour Bridge are busy in both directions during peak hour. Unless you would like to get to know the armpit of a Sydney sider intimately, AVOID peak hour on the train system!
As a tourist you are most likely going to be interested in the 'Airport Link' and the 'City Circle' stations. However for a general overview, Sydney has quite an extensive train system. See a map of the Sydney train system.
Unlike the bus system, it is possible to buy a return ticket, the return ticket lasts until about 3 or 4am the next day. For short trips you can buy a single ticket which will go one-way to your destination. You ticket is valid on the day you buy it.
If you plan to catch the train more often you can buy a weekly train pass. Weekly train passes also include bus and ferry trips as well. See more information on Travel Passes. You can see all the different types of TravelPasses available from the CityRail website.
Around Sydney City
The City Circle consists of the following stations:
- Central Station (Airport link) is a popular one as the trains go anywhere. A good meeting spot is at the Hungry Jacks (country terminal)
- Circular Quay (Airport link) is near major tourist attractions and the ferries. Good meeting places are at the ferry terminals (A-E).
- Martin Place
- Museum (Airport link) has good meeting points at the corner of David Jones or at the Hyde park fountain
- Town Hall (Airport link)
- St James (Airport link) has a good meeting point is on the steps the ANZAC memorial in Hyde park.
- Wynyard (Airport link)
Getting out of the city
For serious travel check out the train section on the Australia cs wiki.
Other forms of transport
Your best bet is to check out the City of Sydney website on cycling. Some areas in Sydney are cycle friendly, others are not! This website has a list of bicycle associations and maps that cyclists will find useful. A great guide to finding a free or cheap bike is here.
Catching the ferry is a great alternative to the train or bus! The city terminal is located at Circular Quay (Quay is pronounced 'key') and has ferries going to Manly, Taronga Zoo and many other places.
You can buy your tickets individually, or if you have bought a weekly pass, check the zoning because you might be able to catch a ferry as part of your ticket price. See the ferry tickets you can buy - some are special passes such as a ZooPass.
Sydney Harbour offers many great islands to visit as well, check out the island descriptions and day tour suggestions.
Notes for disabled travelers
Sydney's public transport is fine for disabled travelers. For example the train system accommodates disabled travelers by providing elevators or ramps for disabled travellers and there are disabled taxis, though you will have to be more prepared and book a taxi that can take a wheelchair. Unfortunately not all Sydney buses accommodate wheelchairs or the less mobile, but many do in the inner city. Buses that have a ramp facility will indicate their ability to accommodate disabled travelers by making a little footnote on the timetable. All Sydney ferries all use ramps, though it is best to ask someone to assist you when you get there.
- Pants and trousers are the same thing. We say pants rather than trousers.
- Undies are underwear (not pants)
- Thongs are footwear (not undies)
- The g-string is underwear (not thong)